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Aims: The aim of the present study was to determine the postharvest handling knowledge and practices among food handlers on mycotoxigenic molds contamination in maize based diets in School Meals Program in Salima District, Malawi.
Study Design: This was cross-sectional study with qualitative and quantitative component.
Place and Duration of Study: The study was carried out in Salima district, Central Malawi, between August and November, 2019.
Methodology: The study used a structured questionnaire which was administered to 124 individual food handlers which were purposively selected from 31 primary schools. The simple random sampling technique was used to select the 31 primary schools among those implementing home-grown school meals program. The food handlers included School Meals Cooks, Food Suppliers, Food Committee members, and Stores Keepers. Data was analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Scientists (version 20.0).
Results: The results showed that 80% of food handlers had high knowledge of causes of mycotoxigenic molds contamination in maize foods, 47% had moderate knowledge of health effects of mycotoxigenic molds, while 50% had moderate knowledge of control measures of mycotoxigenic molds in maize foods. Eighty-five percent (85%) were not aware of mycotoxins contamination in maize foods. Furthermore, the study revealed that 60% of food handlers practiced poor postharvest handling of maize foods during transporting, storage and processing in schools. There were no significant differences in knowledge of mycotoxigenic molds and postharvest handling practices of maize foods across demographic regions among food handlers (P >0.05).
Conclusion: The study concluded that majority of food handlers had high knowledge of mycotoxigenic molds in maize foods, however they practiced poor postharvest handling which might influence occurrence of mycotoxigenic molds in maize based diets for school children. There is need to educate all stakeholders involved in School meals Programme on mycotoxins and postharvest handling of maize foods to prevent school children from the risk of mycotoxins exposure.
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